Magic Johnson defined the point guard position. He was a floor general, a true leader, a scorer and most of all a distributor of the basketball. Oscar Robertson changed the guard position with his size and skill, but Magic elevated and dominated the PG position during his career. Magic was huge. He stood 6’9″, almost a foot taller than his opposition. He had the size of the post players with the deft ball-handling, quickness, vision and scoring prowess of smaller back court players. Magic destroyed players on the basketball court and did it with a smile. He allowed teammates to have fun while playing basketball and probably enjoyed himself more than any of them. With his superior size and athleticism, he could see and make plays that other guards could not. He took this skill set to a Hall of Fame career. Magic Johnson controlled the pace of the game while simultaneously directing teammates and the offensive attack from the perimeter. He regularly settled his teammates in the half court or pushed a frenetic pace in the open floor. Magic excelled at exploiting the weak points of a defense with his uncanny basketball IQ and his unparalleled court vision. He saw the basketball uniquely because he had such a unique perspective.
Magic Johnson loved to play basketball. More so, he loved life. He was fundamentally sound, but played with panache and flash. His ability to look off a defender and either score or assist on a bucket is unmatched even today. In fact, he left basketball as the All-Time assist leader in only 12 years of professional basketball. It took his next closest competitor 15 years to surpass his total. His patented no-look pass has since become a staple of modern basketball. Magic has career averages of 19.5 ppg. and 12.3 apg. with 7.7 rebounds while shooting 52.0% from the field. He did this despite almost shot putting all of his long range attempts. In comparison Larry Bird, his biggest rival, and a fellow Hall of Fame player, long considered one of the best shooters and all around players in NBA history, shot 49.6%. Magic and the LA Lakers won the National Basketball championship 5 times during his career. In his first NBA Finals as a rookie, his center Kareem Abdul Jabbar went down to an injury in game 6. Magic shifted from his starting point guard position to the center spot and won the game decisively. He scored 42 pts., had 15 rebs., 7 asts., and 3 stls. He became the first and only rookie to win an NBA Finals MVP award. He went on to win 2 more Finals MVP’s, and 3 regular season MVP’s, and 2 All-Star MVP’s too. He is one of four players to win an NCAA championship and a NBA championship in consecutive years. Johnson joined Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to record 700 pts., rebs., and asts., in the same season. He led the league in assists 4 times, left the game as the all-time leader in total assists, and still holds the record for assists per game at 11.2. Magic was selected to the All-Star team in each of his twelve years and was selected to the All-NBA team 10 times, 9 times as on the 1st team. He is one of the most decorated players in the NBA, but his impact does not stop at awards or championships. It is measured in the way that he played.
Physically, Magic Johnson towered above his competition. At 6’9″, he was the tallest point guard in NBA history and one of the most athletic. His height allowed him to see the court from a position that most guards could not and gave him a distinct advantage over smaller guards. He slung the basketball right over a defender’s head on the way to an easy assist for his big men. He passed the ball past small defender’s outreached hands to perimeter players for 3 pointers. He lead the most exciting fast break in basketball history, the Lakers’ Showtime offense. He even bullied defenders under the basketball rim in the post for easy buckets when he was not passing the ball. Magic Johnson was a sports phenomenon when he entered the league. There had never been anyone like him, and there has not been anyone like him since. Oscar Robertson was his progenitor, but he paved the way for generations of big, physical guards like Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. Johnson’s size was ideal and the way that he played emphasized all his gifts. Magic Johnson was and is the best point guard that ever lived.